Two for the diary
I wrote a couple of items for the Diary section of the October issue of Prospect. One was used in truncated form; the other wasn’t. Here are both of them.
Turkey’s prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently outlined his vision for ‘Islamist-led democratic capitalism’: “Management of people, management of science and management of money.” It is becoming clear what ‘management’ means here. Erdoğan’s government has been steadily bringing various public bodies under direct state control, of which the latest are the Turkish Academy of Sciences (TÜBA) and the scientific funding agency TÜBITAK. The move has appalled many Turkish scientists, who consider independent scientific research a basic democratic freedom. The government has claimed that TÜBA was functioning poorly. But the absence of any prior consultation adds to the impression that this is essentially a political move, perhaps to muzzle an organization seen as too secular and left-leaning. “Academics will be increasingly careful about what they say, and what topics they teach and research”, says Erol Gelenbe, an electronic engineer and TÜBA member working at Imperial College in London. One obvious concern is whether ‘Islamist-led’ science will suppress Darwinism. Turkey already has the lowest public acceptance of the theory of evolution in all of Europe, and TÜBA drew criticism on this issue during the 2009 Darwin Year celebrations. Stem-cell research is also unlikely to find governmental favour. But Gelenbe believes that religious considerations will “affect all areas of the sciences, especially the human and social sciences”. He suspects it is only a matter of time before TÜBA begins appointing theologians.
Images of Americans boarding up in preparation for Hurricane Katia reminded Europeans of how little they need to fear extreme weather. The worst Katia could do was to rouse a blustery day in Scotland with a flick of her tail. But don’t count on it staying this way. Hurricane-like events similar to those that appear in the tropical Atlantic and Pacific have been occasionally seen in the Mediterranean. These so-called Medicanes have been predicted to multiply and intensify, possibly reaching full hurricane force, as global temperatures rise, since high sea surface temperatures are the engine of hurricanes. You might want to think twice before booking for Majorca in 2050.